This summer, a dear friend invited my kids and I up to her vacation cabin for a few days. The cabin isn’t huge, so we spent almost every second in each other’s company. You get to know a family’s habits really well with that level of togetherness!
She commented one morning, as I had one kid on my lap and another leaning against my shoulder, “Your kids are just always ON you.” It’s true. Especially in comparison to her more independent family. As much as I sometimes want to de-suction them OFF, I perpetuate the physical contact. We hold hands, cuddle, and pat on the back because that’s how I’ve always been.
Last week, I visited with another mom and found myself covered in children. After coaxing them to go find another activity, I shared the story of my trip to the cabin with a laugh. I told her that the family we were with wasn’t as physically affection, so our satellite behavior surprised them. This mom started saying that it was “too bad” that they weren’t more like me. I had an instant answer to her that has been rattling around in my mind since then.
I absolutely disagree. My opinion, based solely on watching families interact rather than any scientific degree, is that every mom brings different strengths to her child-raising process. The best mom we can be involves all of those things that make us unique. While it’s important I create boundaries for my kids, if I tried to be a less physical mom, my kids would miss out on that specific thing I do well. Yes, it’s important to hug your kids. I’m sure there are studies that prove it. But if my friend suddenly tried to pick up, pat, and hold her kids ALL the time, they’d miss out on her unique forms of affection. Plus, frankly, it’d be weird. Her kids are well-adjusted and confident. No one doubts that they feel loved. She’s doing just fine.
This is a pet peeve of mine. We as mothers need to stop assigning value to certain behaviors in order to judge someone else’s parenting. There is no magical formula to creating the perfectly well-rounded child. 15 hugs + 4 bits of wisdom + 8 organic fruit or veggie snacks + 1 hour of music lessons does not guarantee ANYTHING.
Instead, we should value each parent as an individual made differently from anyone else. An individual that pours all that they are into their children. An individual that worries, plans, and hopes just like the rest of us. An individual that gives a unique and meaningful experience to their kids.
The most important person we need to stop judging is ourselves. Are there ways to improve? Sure. Should we keep learning how to be more effective moms? Absolutely! Do we need to look like the PTA president, the organizer, or the organic gardener to be great parents? No, really and truly, no!